A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesCornwall In Winter 2017

Familiar Faces, Familiar Places

By Ren Withnell

Vango are a bunch of liars! -3 comfort, -10 limit and -28 extreme it says on my sleeping bag's bag. I'd estimate it was -3 last night and comfort was NOT to be found. My feet were cold. Socks on. My legs were cold. Thermals on. My ass was cold, bike jacket over the sleeping bag and my backside. My body was cold. Lumberjack shirt on. After all this I slept in fits and starts needing to move to recirculate what little warm blood I had remaining to the parts that needed it. 

I guess sleeping bag ratings are like tent sizes. A 2 man tent is big enough for 2 men so long as they lie close together, intimately so. If you have anything like a bag or a pair of shoes 2 men will need a 3 man tent. If you plan to sleep at -3 degrees centigrade you probably need a -10 comfort sleeping bag unless you have a top of the range thermal mattress with 5 inches of loft, top end thermal pyjamas and 0% humidity (humid air is filled with water vapour that just drains heat away). I need a better mattress and a better sleeping bag if I am to do this winter thing again.

The tent has frost and ice upon it at the frozen campsite in CornwallBy 'eck it was a little cold last night I tell you.

Yesterday's washing did not dry completely and is now frozen in my tent. I re-hang the items which takes some doing as they are stiff and the ice needs to be cracked before the material will bend over the bungee cords. The sun is brighter than ever and is already starting to melt the crispy ice on the tent. 

Today I'm going to see a friend of mine who I've know for, erm, ahem, 26 years. He used to live in Bolton, ride a big fat Harley and had a real biker's beard with a real biker's cut off. Fate is cruel and early onset arthritis lead him to leave Bolton for the milder climate of the Cornish peninsula. He's been here for something like 20 years now and while we don't speak often I find each time we meet it's like we've never been apart. 

An ordinary street with houses, telephone poles, parked cars and hedges in St AustellCornwall isn't all seaside and sun. St Austell is a regular town.

Finding Mike's place in St Austell is easy enough. Seeing Mike for the first time is always a little more difficult. He's withered some more as the arthritis slowly but surely nibbles away at his joints and his strength but it never takes anything from his keenly sharp mind. He is still fiercely independent and politely snaps at me when I offer to help make the brew. He is still a man, perhaps more of a man than most of us could hope to be and he will not allow anyone to treat him as anything but. 

We sit and talk for 3 hours while a technician fixes the poorly fridge in the kitchen. Between operations Mike still works on various motorcycles out in the garage, helps out at the local steam railway (Lappa Valley I think) and generally does what he can to cause havoc and entertain himself. Much as he hates to admit it he almost realises riding the Big Twin Harley may be a pipe dream but after his shoulder joint is replaced next week he's sure as hell going to give it a shot. If not there's a Suzuki Marauder 125 that needs fettling and he'll take that instead. 

I ask him something that troubles me, let me explain. I ride as often as I can because one day I too could be in Mike's shoes. The idea is if this happens instead of riding I'll have lots and lots of happy memories to fall back on. My concern though is if motorcycling is my life today then the more I do the more I should miss it if I can no longer ride. Mike looks down. He misses motorcycling like hell, so much so I can see it hurts him more than aching joints and bones. 

Ren's bike with all the camping gear and luggage he takes with him on his travelsIt is hard to image life without riding a motorcycle.

Mike doesn't really answer the question but explains that he does all he can to continue making memories. From flirting with the nurses on the ward to riding roller coasters, from bothering people in queues at the till to getting excited at the arrival of his latest model train. He can't ride his bike today but hope remains and in the mean time there's plenty of mischief and mayhem to be created.

I leave Mike to it, safe in the knowledge I'll probably not speak to him for another 6 months, a year or 5 years but when we do it'll be just the same. I sweep the 500 around a roundabout and think to myself how stupidly unbelievably ridiculously lucky I am that I can do this and do it with hardly a thought. One day this too shall pass Ren, so make the most of it while it is here.

Another friend is on my mind now as I head to Perranporth Beach. Ron, back in Bolton, introduced me to this place in 2005. He always wishes he was here. There's a snapshot of the beach on his computer desktop, he has a link to the webcam at his favourite bar overlooking the beach and he has endless pictures and memories from the many many years he's been coming here, man and boy. I park the bike up and walk across to "The Watering Hole" and order a hot cup of tea. The sun is now setting over the surrounding hillsides and the temperature is already starting to drop. I give him a call, hoping to wave to him via the webcam but his internet is down at home. Doh.

Perranporth beach is broad flat sandy beach. There is a number of people about but not too busyPerranporth Beach. Quiet, but not empty.

Back at the campsite my clothes are dry which is good. I pack them away then consider the falling temperature and wonder if I should wear every item of clothing I have with me tonight. It's going to be cold again and I'm dreading it after last nights deep freeze. I start to feel the chill as I do my chores, the cold is biting even within the lounge tonight as I watch a little TV. The only source of warmth is my petrol powered stove when I make a brew so I let this run as I eat and drink within the tent. I know. I just know sleep will not be easy or comfortable tonight. Vango, you lying swines.

Why Oh Why Oh Why? Ren explains why he thinks it's a good idea to travel to a UK holiday destination in winter. Kind of like asking a madman why he's mad really.
Eating The Elephant It's the first two days of Ren's brief jolly to Cornwall in January. Motorways, could anything interesting possibly happen?
My Guided Tour The winter sun is out in Cornwall and Ren gets a brief yet perfect guided tour of one area. What more could he ask for?
Familiar Faces, Familiar Places It's the fourth day of the Cornwall expedition. After hypothermia comes sunshine and the chance to catch up with an old friend.
Devonian Delights It's another cold cold morning as Ren starts the journey back home. He's expecting a rather dull ride today but there's a few surprises in the countryside.
Meeting Ian Before Ren returns home to end his Cornish expedition he meets a certain Mr Ian Soady.
What Did I Learn? After returning home from his Cornish adventure Ren is asking himself what he has leared and was it all worth the effort?

Reader's Comments

pockepete said :-
The cheque is in the post.
Of cource I will still love you in the morning.

Of cource the sleeping bag will keep you warm......

Your still Mad....

Ive got a nice trip to work in the morning its already -3 here no cloud cover. I washed my disgraceful bike today, reall let the hose soak it, the washed by hand with car wax, then I checked it all over. The ABS inner ring on the from wheel is totally rusty on both sides. The read pannier carrier has a spot of rust. The peg holder which are some sort of solver alloy have worn away where my feet obviously rub again them as I brake and change gear.
The ignition is sticking if I put the steering lock on and rust is settling in on one of the head bolts.

Im pretty amazed as the bikes exactly 6 months old. Ok Ive used it for work every day come hail or rain. Except for my week off with man flu. What state will it be in after a year.

Sprayed and brushed the rest of the ACF50 on it rubbed WD40 on a few exposed bits and some ptfe spray on the rest.

Wiped down the rust and covered in acf50 by a small brush making sure none got on my disks.

If only I lived in cornwall or california not as much rain.
25/01/2017 20:13:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah I've noticed the ABS ring is rusting somewhat on the 500. It seems we both have rusty rings...

You do realise you're only supposed to use your motorcycle on warm dry summer days? Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the winter. I don't think the finish on the 500 is poor as such but I wouldn't call it top notch either.

As for living somewhere warmer and drier...oooh yes please.
26/01/2017 17:11:48 UTC
P said :-
I agree the cb500x finish is actually half decent especially for the price they are new, i used acf50 on mine and aside from some very small rusting behind the rear pegs on the frame if you looked under the back it coped with winter very well. But i will say that going back to an older bike(i traded the 2015 cb500x in for a 2005 Suzuki Bandit 1200S) new bikes are much lower quality build than they used to be. Thinner paint, brackets welded to the frame rusting quicker, plating on bolts and brake banjo's all seem to corrode quickly compared to older bikes. I swear by acf50 tho, get it on before corrosion gets a chance to bite!
28/01/2017 10:30:55 UTC

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